Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Warren Gatland has psychology all wrong

Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photo / Getty Images
Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photo / Getty Images

Warren Gatland has got the psychology all wrong as yet another touring Welsh rugby side head towards oblivion.

Coach Gatland is in charge of a looming and depressing disaster but instead of seeing a psychologist, he needs to be one.

Welsh rugby teams travel about as well as six day old bread and Gatland's Boyos appear to be toast with two tests remaining. In a bitter irony, Waikato rugby legend Gatland gave a dreadful job interview in his hometown Hamilton, with the Lions coaching job up for grabs on the 10-game tour of New Zealand next year.

To make matters worse after the crushing defeat to the cobbled-together Chiefs, he committed the cardinal sin of needlessly criticising his fringe players, saying publicly they must take a hard look at themselves. This was a time for total solidarity under pressure. It could look to some of his players that he's dodging blame himself, on his old home patch.

Gatty might take leaf out of England coach Eddie Jones' playbook in Australia. The irrepressible Jones is making every PR post a winner over the ditch. Even in victory, he's painting his side as hard done, a team of decent men encircled by vicious enemies who will do anything to bring them down.

He will latch on to anything and everything to build an us-against-the-world mentality. Right now, you could shake Jones' hand, and he'd accuse you of reaching for his wallet. He's even got the locals in retreat, forcing a former Wallaby to say sorry.

Jones has a rare gift - he's a likable and charismatic bloke even if he does get under the skin. And he'll do what ever it takes to win. He's loving the confrontation, and has every angle covered. In contrast, Gatland is underwhelming and the team is reflecting that image - the Welsh tour is starting to feel like a lethargic training run.

Gatland has barely made a headline since getting here, while you can't keep Jones out of the large print. Build a theme, build your team. Gatland could have moaned about a hotel, slagged New Zealand off for slagging Wayne Barnes off, complained about the itinerary after getting hammered by the Chiefs, invented a story about the All Blacks using illegal obstruction moves, discovered spies at his training runs.

Instead, he claimed a hollow 60 minutes of "brilliance" at Eden Park which only served to highlight the Welsh collapse, and unnecessarily stated the obvious by pointing the finger at his own players after the Hamilton disaster. The Lions bosses will be cringing in their tweed on hearing him publicly dissing his troops, given the natural divisions in a Lions squad.

On that score, the Lions would be mad not to keep knocking loudly at Jones' door even though he's ruled himself out of the 2017 tour. The worldly coach is a sitter as the best man to lead the Lions, a cocky and clever English boss who - as an Aussie - won't be too much of a problem for the Irish, Welsh and Scottish players. Surely he can be persuaded to reconsider his availability. He would add a fascinating element to the tour - character and controversy.

Jones will play the game. Touring New Zealand is an emotional exercise, of keeping your own team fired up in the face of inevitable adversity. Spirit is everything.

A mixture of ferocity and fun - that's the ideal. Play the game hard, enjoy the circus, and deflect any negative influences away from your players. If I may be so's the tip Gatty. Let your squad feel the love then step outside the front door and find yourself an enemy. Unfortunately, it's probably too late.

- NZ Herald

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